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Poles unite in mourning late president

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Poles unite in mourning late president


Poland is mourning the passing of a president after Lech Kacyznski died in a plane crash at the age of 60 on Saturday.

At least 97 people died in the accident, according to figures quoted by the Reuters news agency at 1900 CET (1700 GMT).

Poland’s first lady Maria Kaczynski, the chief of the army and senior government officials were onboard when the presidential plane came down in heavy fog close to Smolensk, western Russia.

They had been on the way to the region to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when Soviet troops killed thousands of Poles.

Elected in 2005, Kaczynski had been set to stand for a second term as president this autumn but his death means that poll will now be brought forward.

Kaczynski’s fiery brand of right-wing, nationalist politics was often controversial.

He infamously banned gay pride marches during his tenure as mayor of Warsaw and called for the restoration of the death penalty.

But while his political views divided Poles during his lifetime, they are now united in grieving his death.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has arrived at the scene where he was set to meet his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, later on Saturday.

Officials say pilot error caused the crash, although Putin is to personally take charge of an investigation into the accident.

Safety concerns have surrounded the 20-year-old Tupolev aircraft of late, prompting Russian carrier Aeroflot to remove them from its fleet

But budget constraints prevented the presidential plane from ever being replaced.

Polish premier Tusk has declared a week of national mourning in memory of the victims.

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